Not everyone knows this, but the University of Nottingham wouldn’t be where it is today if it were not for chemistry.

Being one of the four original subjects taught here back in 1881, Chemistry is at the very heart of our University’s history. In fact, we wouldn’t even have our beautiful University Park campus if it were not for the generosity of Sir Jesse Boot, of Boots the Chemist, who donated 35 acres of land to the university in 1921.

It seems only fair, then, to remind ourselves of the excellent work being done in this key element of the University’s past and present.

You may recall back in 2004 when the School’s own Andrei Khlobystov entered the Guinness Book of World Records for being part of the team which created the world’s smallest test tube – made from a carbon nanotube. Well, it didn’t stop there – Andrei’s nanocarbon group have moved onto ‘nanoreactors’ –nanometre-scale containers which are wider than nanotubes, and so allow for a wider range of molecules to be encapsulated. The control of reactions is remarkable, giving better activity and stability than reactions outside of the container.

Researchers in the organic chemistry department have been synthesising inhibitors of heat shock protein 90, which could be developed into treatments for diseases such as Alzheimer’s, Parkinson’s, HIV and various cancers.

The School is also working on developing new medicines, and good progress is being made in research into treatments for cancer and neurological diseases. For example, researchers in the organic chemistry department have been synthesising inhibitors of heat shock protein 90, which could be developed into treatments for diseases such as Alzheimer’s, Parkinson’s, HIV and various cancers.

Work in the green chemistry section has also led to a more sustainable pathway being developed for the synthesis of anti-malarial compounds, due to the use of supercritical CO2.

Taking a step back from applied chemistry, the School is also working towards understanding more about the fundamentals of chemistry, and how the boundaries of what is known can be pushed by synthesising new and unusual compounds. An example of this is the synthesis of the first ever triply bonded uranium (VI) nitride compound by Professor Stephen Liddle’s group, which was published in the prestigious Nature Chemistry journal earlier this year.

The School is also working towards understanding more about the fundamentals of chemistry, and how the boundaries of what is known can be pushed by synthesising new and unusual compounds.

Research such as this, and similar work carried out in other research groups in the School, allows the science community to gain a better understanding of what is possible in chemistry, and how far the limits of bonding can really be pushed. This is further complemented by the theoretical and computational research carried out in the department, which aids in the understanding of both new and existing compounds, and is constantly improving as theories and technologies advance.

Research such as this, and similar work carried out in other research groups in the School, allows the science community to gain a better understanding of what is possible in chemistry, and how far the limits of bonding can really be pushed.

What really makes research at the School of Chemistry exciting is that these examples have barely scratched the surface. Every day new technologies, ideas, molecules and methodologies are created, keeping this department a powerhouse of the University, and doing Sir Jesse Boot proud.

Katherine Haywood 

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Image courtesy: Alejandro Hernandez

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